In the wake of last week’s NYC trans fat ban, The New York Times reports on a genteel fry-and-bake-off (registration required) by chef Michael S. Schwartz at the Institute of Culinary Education. On the menu: french fries, fried chicken, and, in keeping with the school’s highbrow mien, tarte Tatin. The challenge? See how the old, soon-to-be-dumped Crisco versions stack up against those made with other fats—in this case, coconut oil, canola oil, peanut oil, butter, and lard.
Crisco in the tarte Tatin? Quelle horreur! But Schwartz promises that the Crisco crust would be the best, and according to reporter Thomas J. Lueck, it was “light, flaky, and beckoning,” where the butter crust was flat and the coconut-oil one lumpy and crumbly. Crisco also made the crispest french fries. The only winner? Fried chicken, which came out uniformly crisp and golden no matter which fat or oil it was fried in.
But while the New York State Restaurant Association fights to keep trans fats in the kitchen and under the radar, Slate offers a smart and pithy take on the whole issue. As William Saletan writes of the Big-Bloomberg-Knows-Best law,
Still, Americans draw the line at food. You stamped out our cigarettes, you made us wear seat belts, but you’ll get our burgers when you pry them from our cold, dead hands. But that’s the funny thing about trans fats: They aren’t exactly food. A century ago, they hardly existed. Nature didn’t mass-produce them; we did.
Saleten also points out that, for all the big fast-food companies’ whining, plenty of them are already using trans-fat-free recipes in Europe, where the man-made fats are banned in several countries.